Gavin Sade and I came up with the concept for the project, and then I worked through various materials and designs until I found a material that had the right credentials (diffusion surface, recyclability etc). This was a very difficult process resulting in a lot of redesign and (as you might imagine) compromise. We threw around different potential data sources with a number of friends and colleagues with similar interests. In the end Jodi Newcombe from Carbon Arts suggested the Australian Energy Market data. Gavin and I worked through different information design ideas, that would enable us to visualise the data as light. Our programmer Glen Wetherall then worked with Gavin to create lighting patterns for the Phillips Colour Kinetics LMX LED's that we used (an array of 550 LED nodes arranged on a spherical wire frame inside the cube). This was all done in Processing.
There were many different potential materials that we could have used. Michael Rochaix from Visy Recycling was extremely generous with his time and expertise, showing me many sample, allowing me to test their diffusion properties and send them off to plastic manufacturers to see if they could be reworked in to the form we needed. Likewise Sebastian Bratt from Rotadyne in Sydney was also a critical part of the project. He tested the materials for us, put up with the million questions I had, and kept going back to the drawing board until he found a technique - half by accident - that created the surface we were after.
I also worked with two different engineers Greg Killen, and John Tuxworth of BE Collective, to develop the design for the structure under the cube. We needed something sturdy enough to withstand both the crowds and the high winds - thinking of things such as, what if a drunk person decides to climb on top? The end result was a structure so sturdy it could easily have been permanent. The wood that was used for the frame is about to be transformed into a deck in my back yard!
The other key collaborator on this project was Joe Bracks and his team at Acron Building Services. Acron are commercial builders, so this is not their usual line of work, but they rose to the challenge with amazing grace. Joe is my cousin but his dedication to the project went above and beyond. His staff Ollie, Curtis & Lloyd, built and clad the cube in 3 days - 3 fine days just before 2 weeks of torrential rain.
2. How did you come to be a lighting installation artist? Are you working on any projects not for Vivid, you’d like to share?
I was originally trained as a photographer, but moved into art. My partner Gavin and I regularly collaborate on electronic art projects - most of which are illuminated and are often kinetic or interactive in some way.
Our favourite project in recent years was e. Menura superba, a robotic lyrebird made from post-consumer waste (plastics, stainless steel etc sourced from recyclers).The sculpture is fitted with face recognition software and servo motors so the bird can move its head to 'see and follow' people moving around the room. When it sees someone wearing coloured clothing it mimics these colours in its own clear-ish plastic plumage. There is an array of small colour kinetics LED's in the sculpture that enable this change.
Most recently I created two large light walls for a large residential development called Eden on Victoria Road in Abbotsford, Melbourne. Each wall was approximately 10 metres long and over 3 metres high. The walls have laser cut screens on their face. These screens are designed to look like tree branches stretching out across the surface of the wall. The spaces in between are diffused 'windows' for light. The light behind the wall is again Colour Kinetics LED's, this time programmed to change each fortnight to different colours to reflect the changing colours of foliage and flowers in the complex's garden and local native flora.
3. Where do you see future for independent lighting sculptures & installations taking you?
This is a difficult question as it is the very large commissions such as the one I've just done for Eden, that really allow scope to bring a lot of ideas together in a resolved way. But these commissions are relatively rare for independent practitioners. I feel that there is great benefit - for both parties - for artists such as myself to collaborate with larger lighting firms and directly with clients. Independence allows me to try many different ideas on a smaller, temporary scale, and to explore strangeness, and materials that clients might not accept unless they see it in the resolved forms I can make in my own time, at my own pace. But it is really satisfying to implement some of these ideas on a larger, permanent scale - particularly given the amount of work that usually goes into them.
4. Is there anything you might like to add?
The one thing I'd like to mention, which is not often spoken of, if the difficulty of compromise in these projects. If I were asked was the project a success I would say that depends on the assessment criteria. Visually and conceptually this work is a success, but in the context of my aim to make a fully recyclable work with low carbon foot-print, I'm not satisfied. There is a tension that exists when making 'sustainable' work for a client that wants something quite specific, or in an unforgiving environment (such as Vivid where high winds and huge visitor numbers preclude options that are less robust). There were some beautiful examples of sustainable work in Vivid 2013 such as Mirjam Roos' apples in the tree lit from inside by LED's. For this project though I wanted to communicate something quite specific. I wanted to show how big 27 cubic metres really is. I could have made it in a number of lighter materials, but none of them would have withstood the crowds. It's an interesting conundrum, one I don't have answers to but presume I will worry about and work on for the rest of my career.